Incidentally, each time I use the term "near miss," which appears in today's headline, at least one reader is sure to point out that it is illogical.

The term was war-born, I think. It usually refers to a miss close enough to have caused some damage, or to something that came close to the target, but didn't quite hit it. A near miss, in short, is a miss that came near.

But readers with a logical turn of mind point out that if we want to say that something nearly struck its target we should say "near hit," not near miss. As one put it a few weeks ago, "A near miss doesn't nearly miss, it nearly hits."

There is something to be said for this viewpoint, but the major flaw in it is the assumption that idiomatic expressions are, or should be, logical. This is not a valid assumption.

"Awfully decent of you, old chap," the Englishman murmurs, and we Americans say," He's an awfully nice person." People who expect idiomatic expressions to be logical wonder how something that is awful can be decent or nice, and there's really no good explanation to offer them.

One who takes an oath of office usually concludes with the words, "So help me God." Ross Kendall wonders precisely what those words are supposed to mean. I assume they mean the oath-taker is asking God to help him keep his promise, but I have no idea why the plea is expressed as it is.

The only way to live in peace with idioms is to accept them for what they are. Once you concede that "pretty good" means moderately good, not beautifully good, the rest begins to fall into place and you can stop worrying about whether it's better to slow up or slow down.

On the other hand, perhaps you could care less. Or couldn't care less.